No restriction on collection of bamboo by tribals

Bhubaneswar: Rejecting the Centre`s allegation of "harassment" of tribals by forest department officials in Odisha, the state government on Saturday claimed that it had been allowing tribals to collect bamboo from forests for their captive use.

"There is absolutely no restriction on collection of bamboo from forests by tribals for self use. Artisans who prepare bamboo atricles for livelihood are allowed to collect bamboo from forests," Chief Secretary B K Patnaik told reporters in response to Union Tribal Affairs Minister V K Deo`s letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

"Kindly issue necessary instructions to the concerned authorities to allow unfettered rights of transit for sale of bamboo by Gram Panchayat to local buyers which is a right given to them under the Forest Rights Act (FRA)," Deo wrote in the letter to Patnaik. Deo`s letter said that tribal villagers of Jamguda in Kalahandi district are heavily dependent on Forest and Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) for their subsistence and as a source of cash income.

"The villagers have direct dependence on bamboo for variety of uses. The villagers while collecting bamboos have to face a lot of harassment by forest officials," Deo said. Claiming that Odisha pioneered in implementing FRA 2006, by settling above 1 lakh cases in terms of recording forest land in name of tribals, Patnaik said, "In case of bamboo, the policy is clear. The tribals are allowed rights to take bamboo for their consumption."

The tribal people who make articles by using bamboo as raw materials never face any difficulties, the Chief Secretary said adding the state government would certainly look into the issues raised by the Union Minister. The issue, however, was raised after the state government did not issue transit pass for sale of bamboo by the residents of Jamguda village in Kalahandi distrct.

Tribal villagers had identified 170 bamboo bushes for harvesting and the approximate market value of these bamboos was over Rs one lakh. Local buyers had shown interest to purchase bamboo from Gram Sabha at market price. However, the local forest officials denied permission for the trade on the forest produce. "There is no restriction of taking bamboo from forest for self consumption. But we do not allow the villagers to sell them," a senior forest official said.